by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
Today’s meeting of the Tier 2 Nations in Las Vegas is a long awaited opportunity to create a consistent international fixture list that will increase the number and quality of international fixtures for the Eagles 15′s team. There are many barriers to making this happen. For a start their are existing competitions such as the Asian 5 Nations, Pacific Islands Cup and European Nations Cup. We also have the restrictions placed on us by Regulation 9 (International player release), this regulation creates international release windows, further complicated by different windows for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere’s. We also want to play games against the Tier 1 Nations between World Cups, but they are reluctant to play Tier 2 teams during release periods because these fixtures are not as commercially strong as Tier 1 v Tier 1 games.
Last night the ‘off line ‘ conversations continued, there is clearly a will to agree something but there appear to be three schools of thought.
1. A standalone Integrated 3-year Test match schedule for all Unions
Create a standalone 3-year international matches and tours schedulewhich ensures that there is a balanced schedule of fixtures played across allthe Regulation 9 windows for the top ranked Tier 2 Unions. This is not much different to the way the current system works, only that we will know well ahead of time who we will play. All Tier 2′s want to play the Tier 1′s, but the games are not commercially attractive to the Tier 1′s who prefer to play each other.
2. Annual 8-Team Tier 2 Championship (league) Creation of an annual 8-team Championship withmatches on a home or away basis played over all the Regulation 9 windows in acalendar year. The 8 teams would be Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Japan, USA, Canada, European Nations 1 and European Nations 2. The European Nations teams would be determined based on the ENC tournament rankingsfrom the previous season. Themodel assumes that Canada, USA and Japan will play fixtures in the Northern Hemisphere window(Feb/March) and the Pacific Islands unions will play in the Southern Hemisphere window (July/Aug). This would see the Eagles playing in the Northern Hemisphere release window, increasing the number of Eagles games each year.
3.Annual Tournament with two pools (conferences) of 4 teams
Eight teams would be divided in to twopools of four teams. Pool matches would be played in the June window in twostandalone tournament formats with the winner of each pool playing a final inthe November window in Europe. Easier said than done. This is workable format but a logistical nightmare trying to fit in games around existing tournaments, but establishes a global tournament for Tier 2′s.
Other options will also be tabled, and at the end of the day we hope to have a framework to move this issue forward. An interesting days work ahead, I will update you when I can.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
CLICK HERE to read more on Nigel Melville
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